for this game

Ross homers twice to lead Reds past Marlins, Willis

Sep 27, 2006 - 2:36 AM MIAMI (Ticker) -- David Ross ended Dontrelle Willis' perfect run against the Cincinnati Reds - and the faint postseason hopes of the Florida Marlins.

Ross recorded his third multi-homer game of the season and Chris Denorfia went 4-for-4 as the Cincinnati Reds posted their first win against Willis, a 5-3 victory over the Marlins.

Florida (76-81) was mathematically eliminated from contention for the National League wild card berth.

"It's a hard day," said Marlins manager Joe Girardi, who is expected to lose his job despite leading a team loaded with rookies from 20 games under .500 to a winning record - the first time in history any team had done so. "Even when the odds were bad, I always believed we had a shot. ... A few weeks ago, we were a game and a half out. It hurts. That's what you set your sights on."

In six previous starts against the Reds, Willis (12-12) was 4-0 with an impressive 1.67 ERA. But all of that was knocked aside, courtesy of Ross' bat.

The righthanded hitter led off the second with his 20th homer, a shot to the upper deck in left field that opened the scoring. Denorfia capped the frame with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.

"I don't know how I did that, but it just happened to be one of those games where everything worked out," said Denorfia, who set a career high for hits.

With a runner on in the third, Ross worked a 3-1 count before sending Willis' next pitch off the facing of the upper deck in left, making it 4-0.

Cincinnati (78-79) sits 2 1/2 games back of St. Louis in the NL Central and four back of Los Angeles in the wild card race.

"I didn't see the first one land, but I saw where the second one wound up," Ross said. "We're right in the thick of the race. A lot of people counted us out when we had our lull, but we still have high expectations. This has been fun, and we're still right there."

Both balls were snatched by a Reds' fan sitting in the nearly empty area. "He was probably the only guy sitting up there," joked Reds manager Jerry Narron.

It marked the fifth career multi-homer game for Ross, who finished 2-for-3 with two walks.

After pinch hitter Brendan Harris drew a walk from Willis to open the sixth, Matt Herges relieved and eventually gave up an RBI single to Royce Clayton, making it 5-1.

Willis was responsible for five runs, seven hits and a season high-tying five walks. He had his personal three-game winning streak ended.

"(Willis) wasn't as sharp as he's been the last 8-10 weeks for whatever reason," Girardi said. "You know (with Dontrelle), it's not (lack of) effort."

"I was terrible, but with that being said, you still have to go out there and compete," Willis said. "That's the bottom line, and with that being said, it could have been a whole lot worse. We still had a shot to win that game. ... I didn't pitch my game, but I tried to keep it close."

Ryan Franklin (6-7) tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win and Scott Schoeneweis survived a double in the ninth for his third save of the season.

Florida squandered a chance to draw even or take the lead in the eighth when slugger Miguel Cabrera struck out looking with two runners on against reliever David Weathers.

Making his first start of the year, Cincinnati's Matt Belisle yielded a run, three hits and five walks in 3 2/3 frames.

"Matt gave us everything he had," Narron said. "He hadn't started a game all year, and he took it to the very limit. We're battling and trying to stay alive. We're doing everything we can, playing everybody we have."

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